10 Things About Venice, Verona, & Lake Garda

August 25th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Venice, Verona, and the Lake Garda are three of the most beautiful places to visit in the country of Italy. Which distinguished features of each make them so special and a key attraction for tourists?

1. Venice has over 450 palaces.

Also known as a “palazzi”, the palaces of Venice were built with a mixture of classic architectural styles, such as Gothic, Byzantine, Moorish, and Baroque. A unique combination of these styles was termed Venetian Gothic, which combines the Gothic lancet arch with the influences of Byzantine and Moorish architecture.

2. “Juliet’s House” is in Verona.

If you’ve ever seen the film, “Letters to Juliet”, you might have been interested in the structure that was used to place tiny love notes over the walls of the courtyard. This building exists in Verona, although Juliet Capulet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, never actually lived here. Since it was bought by the Cappello family in 1905, its close relation to Juliet’s surname earned it the title of Juliet’s House.

3. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy.

The mesmerizing landscapes of beaches, mountains, natural hot springs, and ancient towns make Lake Garda a popular getaway location.

4. There are over 400 gondoliers in Venice.

Also known as the “City of Romance”, Venice attracts couples to ride their famous gondolas, where it’s said that couples who kiss underneath each bridge will stay in love forever.

5. Verona is home to an ancient Roman amphitheater.

If you’ve ever taken an interest to the ancient Roman amphitheaters, the Verona Arena, which was built in the 1st century, will satisfy your curiosity. It’s famous for hosting large-scale operas.

6. Lake Garda is split between 3 provinces.

50km in length and 20km width, Lake Garda spans the provinces of Verona, Brescia, and Torento.

7. Venice was built over spongy marshland grounds.

When the structures in Venice were first built, wooden pilings were driven into the moist terrain centuries ago for support.

8. 3 of Shakespeare’s plays were set in Verona.

Shakespeare had no doubt great admiration for Verona, since he set 3 of his famous plays in this city, namely Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, and the Two Gentlemen of Verona.

9. Lake Garda has historical value.

The earliest settlement on this beloved lake was said to date back as far back as 2000BC. The Battle of Lake Benacus also took place in these shores, which was fought between the Romans and the Alamnani people.

10. Venice was the birthplace of a famous opera composer.

Antonio Vivaldi was known as one of the greatest Baroque composers, as he was both a classical composer and virtuoso violinist. His musical influence spread across Europe during his lifetime.

Venice, Verona, and Lake Garda are must-see destinations when traveling to Italy. Book a custom Italian vacation with Gateway Destinations to start your Italian cultural journey today.


Make Your Honeymoon as Sweet as Your Teenage Daydreams

August 18th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

The tradition of a honeymoon is formally known as the event immediately after a wedding, meant to give a newly-wed couple a chance to celebrate their marriage in seclusion. However, a honeymoon is considered by many people to be a much more meaningful and sentimental milestone in their lives, as it symbolizes the first few moments of the bond with their partner.
Therefore, it is important to keep these first moments as special as possible in order to bring a positive start to the couples’ shared lives together.

Gathering stray ideas for your dream honeymoon as a teen may have been one of the most fulfilling daydreams, as you probably didn’t yet put into consideration the expenses, or where to get certain amenities. Perhaps you’ve thought of some crazy ideas like climbing Mount Fuji, taking a cruise in the Amazon River, or exploring an African safari.

But as you grew older, got your own job, entered a steady relationship, and approached your actual honeymoon, you began to realize that planning one requires much more than simply brainstorming themes and activities.

You probably worried that your honeymoon wouldn’t be as sweet as you once thought it would be during your teenage daydreams. There are factors to consider, including the availability of a location, hotel accommodations, the length of your honeymoon, and much more.

Your wedding could also play a part in your planning, as the planning necessary for this event may take up most of your time and resources. By the time you’re done picking out the perfect dress/suit, wedding cake, tapestries, and designing the invites, among so many other details, your energy would have been spent and you’re left wondering, “Now, about the honeymoon..”

Now that you have a fixed budget and a more realistic grasp as to what you and your partner will be able to afford, you can now begin searching for options to better suit your needs. If you’re the type who hasn’t got much flair for putting events together and planning every accommodation, you might want to try certain organizations that specialize in creating honeymoon packages.

These companies will work closely with you and your partner, ensuring your goals are met with the most affordable prices. You can specify with them what kind of honeymoon you’d like, and where to have it. The agency will spare you the time and do all the organizing for you.


Italy: A Wellspring of Artistic and Historical Inspiration

August 11th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Whether you are a travel aficionado or someone who is just getting ready to step into the cultural diversity of our world, there is little doubt that you’ve heard of the beauty of Italy. Often listed among the most beautiful countries in the world, it is considered a top destination for any tourist.

If you’re the type to envision a classic, romantic setting with a dimly lit atmosphere as your ideal vacation, you’ll probably want to consider visiting Italy because it will surely satisfy your expectations. The country is overwhelmingly rich in art and history, as it contains the very city where Shakespeare set the famous tragedy of Romeo and Juliet— Verona.

Other than its capability to host romantic getaways, it can also excite history buffs, serve as a wellspring of inspiration for writers or painters, and entertain those who simply want to appreciate various architectural structures, sculptures, literature, and many more historic pieces of art; some of which include ornate, Baroque architecture, masterpieces by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and a Roman amphitheater.

From exploring the home to one of Europe’s oldest universities to the ancient ruins of the Romans, the many cities of Italy will provide you with such an exceptional sight-seeing experience, you’ll feel as if you’ve been teleported into the fifteenth century, during the Renaissance Age.

And if this wasn’t enough to pique your interest, it is also the home to one of the most iconic buildings you’ve seen in photos— the leaning tower of Pisa. It’s spectacular in pictures, but even more so in person.

As you explore the graceful, cobblestoned streets of Italy and, with every passing second, breathe in more of the rich aura of Italy, you may find this aura almost tangible as it seeps into every city and corner, permeating the entire country with its vivid artistic array.

It is no wonder it is considered by many people to be a dream location for their honeymoon, or anything romantic in that matter. When you’re both aiming for a passionate, candle-lit dinner, having one in this picturesque country won’t require much effort on your part, as Italy would act as a naturally tender atmosphere.

However, with all these mentions of different cities and cities to go sightseeing in, it may be difficult to plan your own schedule when you’ve decided to travel there. You’ll find yourself asking, “Which cities are the best options for me to visit? How will I know if I’ve missed anything special that I would have liked to see?”

Luckily, there are numerous agencies designed to provide you with a custom Italian vacation, where travel experts and managers will assist you in planning your perfect trip.


The Nostalgic Charm of Europe’s Christmas Markets

August 1st, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, experiencing a Christmas Market in Europe may bring back childhood meChristmas market4mories like it was yesterday.  From the end of November through Christmas Eve and sometimes through New Year’s Eve, numerous towns in Europe line the streets of their historic centers with wooden structures filled with gifts and food for sale.  Music abounds everywhere in the streets and sipping hot beverages such as mulled spice wine or hot cocoa keeps shoppers warm while they wander the streets looking for just the right gift or memento.   Each town or village offers their unique crafts and foods for sale, but all exude a common atmosphere of festive joy.
Christmas market, EuropeTraveling the beautiful waterways of Europe is one of the best ways to visit several Christmas markets during one season.  Leading river cruise lines such as AmaWaterways, Uniworld, Avalon, Scenic, Tauck, Emerald and Viking offer itineraries that focus on visiting these colorful markets found in the charming villages and bustling towns along the river banks of Europe.  Imagine returning to your cozy stateroom aboard your beautiful “floating hotel” after enjoying a few hours in the crisp winter air after a busy day or night of shopping and merriment.  Then relaxing with a delicious meal and a comfortable night’s sleep before waking up to explore the treasures at the next port.

River cruising in Europe during the Christmas season is an ideal way to unite friends or family members and spend enjoyable quality time together.


Should Travel to Greece be Postponed or Avoided?

July 15th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Although the Greek government has restricted access to cash and credit cards for local citizens, foreign funds are still currently available to international travelers through ATM machines and banks.  It is advisable to carry extra cash and several forms of payment, however, in case bank and ATM accessibility also becomes difficult for travelers.  Strikes affecting local transportation and flights could increase in protest to tighter governmental controls to reduce costs.  Allowing a little extra time for traveling (such as ferry connections) is a good idea until the dust settles.  All the reasons to visit Greece are unchanged – beautiful scenery and pristine beaches, azure seas, friendly people, good food, amazing history and outstanding architecture.


Ever Stress Over Luggage When Traveling Abroad?

June 15th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Have you ever wondered if there is an easier way to deal with your luggage while traveling abroad?  Or had the unhappy experience of delayed or lost luggage by an airline?  You can certainly consider shipping your luggage to your destinations using shipping services like FedEx or DHL, but innovative companies such as Luggage Forward (and others) offer personalized shipping service from your home to your destination.  This service comes with a price but may offset the worry of it being delayed or lost, and the stress of handling your own luggage through train stations and in and out of hotels before or after a cruise, for example.

Their services typically include tracking where your bag is at all times until it reaches its destination, re-routing it if your itinerary changes, and guaranteeing an on-time delivery, and in good condition.  Call us for details to see if this may be a good choice for your next vacation.


Have You Checked Your Passport Expiration Date?

May 15th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments
passport expiration, international travel

A quick check of your passport may save you a lot of time and stress when getting ready to leave for your next trip abroad. Many countries now require that the passport expiration date be valid for at least six months beyond your return travel date so make sure yours is ready to go.


The Not-to-be-Missed “Lake District” of Northern Italy

May 10th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Visions of Italy for many include iconic art treasures, breath-taking historical sites, delicious wines and food, and scenic countryside for starters, but often overlooked is the majestic beauty of Italy’s numerous lakes, just steps away from Milan and Venice in the foothills of the Alps.  Each of the major lakes has its own unique character but all offer relaxation, beauty, a variety of accommodations, great cuisine, and a plethora of water and outdoor activities.  Having just spent a glorious week in this area, I invite you to consider seeing for yourself what these lakes have to offer.  In addition to experiencing one of the major lakes described below, you may want to explore some of the smaller lakes such as Lake Orta and its medieval village of Orta San Giulio.  Here is an idea of what you will find at the major lakes in this region…

Lake Garda, Italy, Northern Italy, lake districtLake Garda – is located farthest to the east and is the largest lake in Italy.  The water is clean and great for swimming, fishing and boating.  It boasts natural hot springs water that is piped to two villages on its shoreline.  One of these spa towns is picturesque and medieval Sirmione, located on a peninsula on the southern shore – less than one hour from beautiful Verona and next door to the Valpolicella wine region.   Consider the Villa Cortine Palace Hotel for a luxurious stay in a tranquil park setting with glorious lake views.

Lake Como, Italy, Northern Italy Lake Como – lies directly north of Milan about one hour by train or car.  Surrounded by beautiful mountains, it has the largest concentration of beautiful villas on its shoreline, which were largely built during the heyday of the silk business in this area.  The southern and middle portions of Lake Como are dotted with charming villages as well as the bustling town of Como to the south that has a lovely historic center, great shopping, two train stations, and plenty of great dining options.  This is the hub for the public ferry systems that run throughout the lake and even offers a seaplane port for transportation “uplake” or to nearby lakes and scenic sightseeing.  Great hiking trails abound all around the lake, some quite challenging.  Accommodations range from simple boutique hotels to luxurious villa hotels that you will not want to leave.

Lake Maggiore, Italy, Northern ItalyLake Maggiore – is the second largest of the lakes in this region and has several lovely islands, all of which are privately owned by the Borromeo family except one.  Two of their islands, Isola Madre and Isola Bella, have beautiful gardens open to the public, with Bella also offering a villa to explore – both of which are well worth a visit.  This lake is great for swimming and boating, as well as other water activities. Other activities include golf, a scenic train, shopping, hiking, and a visit to nearby Piedmont wine region.  The Villa & Palazzo Aminta awaits you if you are looking for a luxurious and relaxing stay.

These lakes are easily reached by car (Lake Garda from Venice or Verona to the east, Lakes Como and Maggiore from Milan to the south) or by train.  Driving is not for the faint of heart in this area, however, as roads are very narrow and many are very windy with lots of congestion (especially Lake Como).  You may want to consider arriving by train then having a private transfer or car/water taxi to your hotel.


Avoiding Catching A Cold When Flying

April 15th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments
If you are like me, I have often suffered getting a cold after flying a long distance. The air dryness and lingering germs on surfaces are both factors. Try these helpful tips, courtesy of IndependentTraveler.com:
1.  Stay well hydrated (drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine).
2. Keep your hands clean (wash with hot soapy water, if possible, or use alcohol wipes)
3. Use a saline nasal mist to keep mucous membranes moist.
4. Use a germ-killing mouthwash (helps moisten your throat as well).
5. Consider taking large does of Vitamin C before, during and shortly after your travel and don’t forget your vitamins.

Google Translate App

March 15th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments
Your smartphone may become your best friend on your next trip. Google recently announced a major update to their translate app that enables your phone’s camera to translate printed text, even without an Internet or data connection. This is currently available for six languages on Android and iOS versions, with plans to keep adding languages. There is also translation by speech once the foreign language is selected on your phone. Enjoy this demo, courtesy of the Huffington Post: Huffington Post Google Tech Interview.